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Beltrami County Board: Concerns raised over Camp Rabideau

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Beltrami County Board: Concerns raised over Camp Rabideau
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

BEMIDJI -- More than $1.5 million has been invested into restoring Camp Rabideau, making it accessible and usable by students the way it was used as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in 1935. The Blackduck community has some concern over how the camp will be used.

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"The comments that we have gotten from the public have been a variety," Blackduck District Ranger Greg Morris said Tuesday at the Beltrami County

Board of Commissioners' work session prior to its regular meeting. "Everything from 'You've ruined it, we don't want you in there' to 'You are not doing enough and we want to see people out there all the time using it.'"

Since 2005, Camp Rabideau has been used to house summer programs with the Rabideau Conservation Corps as well as partnerships with places like Rotary, the Blackduck School, the Blandin Foundation, with hundreds hours of volunteer time put in at at the camp. Morris wants to see the camp utilized as it was originally intended -- to teach young people important job skills.

"The vision of the camp and my vision is to express original intent and historic use of Camp Rabideau by preserving its unique historic features and making natural resources from the past present and future," Morris said.

The camp stopped serving as a CCC camp after World War II and was then used by the University of Illinois for forestry school from 1946 to 1972. After the University of Illinois left the camp, it deteriorated. In the late 90s, the camp became one of the state's National Historic Landmarks, a list that includes places like Fort Snelling and the James J. Hill House. Four of the camp's buildings were maintained through the 1980s as they were utilized to some extent, but others rotted away before being face-lifted over the last few years.

Morris said the intention is to create partnerships to continue to bring people to the camp and maintain the educational learning facility over time. The community has some concern over the camp's use, including fears that it could lose its National Historic Landmark status, become less appealing as a tourist attraction and cause some danger to the neighborhood because of lack of parental supervision.

Morris said the safety concerns of the public could be addressed with a special use agreement, which would require safety restrictions as well as regulations for maintaining the health and integrity of the area. Morris said that for programs in the past, two to three adults have been on-site for the 12-plus students at the camp, but he said operating plans that require certain supervision ratios could be included when partnerships are made. Morris said that he is open to holding a barbecue this summer to get the community to the camp and address some of residents' concerns.

A suggestion was made to hold a barbecue when the students are at the camp and inviting the public to see how the camp is being used and maintained.

"A lot of the perception might be the fear of the unknown," Beltrami County Commissioner Jack Frost said. "I think that would be an outstanding way to build bridges with the surrounding community and get some buy in. They can be your best advocate."

"A lot of the perception might be the fear of the unknown. I think that would be an outstanding way to build bridges with the surrounding community and get some buy in. They can be your best advocate."

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